Thursday, November 29, 2018

11/29/18

"Who Dares Call It Murder?"
By Walt Giersbach


Damn you, Danaë, you were the colossus of my life, the thing that gave meaning to the daily chores of getting up and lying down. Each morning you greeted me with a smile, your soft kiss at night guaranteed blissful renewal. And now I’ve laid you down to rest.

“Your wife is dead, Yoshio,” the police inspector insists. “The ambulance took her away to the morgue. We know you killed her. We have your pistol.”

Of course he did — the Beretta .25 caliber the police took from my hand. There was no point in discussing this. He’d know the truth soon enough. All I could remember was how sweetly time had rolled by since Danaë came into my life, accelerating my pulse as we gamed the tables in Macau and Monaco and skimmed the clouds from continent to continent. It was my joy to hang diamonds and emeralds from her throat and cover her white shoulders in silk. That was the least I could do in compensation for her creating the Fibonacci logarithms that built our financial empire. She was brilliant. No way could I alone have come up with the schemes that sent dollars, euros and yen flying into our accounts.

Why she had to double cross me I’ll never know. Setsuo Kawabata said there was an outside possibility that love would fail or be denied, but I didn’t believe him. Danaë, you knew there was no capriciousness where my love for you was concerned. No matter. The scientist Kawabata is no longer alive, so I can’t question him on this point.

Odd how I remember our bathing nude on the beaches of St. Martin, when Schiller laughed and pointed. “Bildschirmbräune,” he said. “Screen suntan,” referring to the hours you spent on computers, because your unblemished skin remained pale while I — more advanced — colored like a potted lobster. But, he wasn’t laughing at you. I was the cuckold. He took you in my own bed as easily as he siphoned my account.

“We have very precise laws in St. Martin concerning murder,” the police inspector says. “There will be a trial, the prosecutor will line up the evidence like sausages on a plate, you will be convicted, then you will hang. Now, do you wish to explain a motive? Perhaps some mitigating circumstance causing you to kill such a beautiful young woman?”

I sighed. Interrogation is so tedious. Schiller’s body will never be found, unless a shark coughs up a piece of bone or gold ring. Kawabata hanged himself like a proper Japanese, atoning for his monumental hubris. And Danaë’s death will never come to trial.

But the inspector is relentless. “You are a crook of the highest financial order. We all know that, but I am only interested in murder — not your pyramid schemes and money laundering and currency violations.”

“Alright, I will give you a morsel of information. It won’t satisfy the appetite of a mouse, but it will be enough for you to leave me in peace.”

The smug bastard said, “Alors, my crumb, if you please.”

I smiled — sincerely, I hoped. “My wife colluded with my enemies. That cost her her life. I shot her with the Beretta.”

He returned the smile. “Now we have it. That’s all I wished to know — to hear it with my own ears.” He got up to leave the cell.

“Do you want to know the key that will unlock all mysteries concerning me, my business, my entourage of bankers and lawyers, my Gulfstream at the airport — and why you will release me shortly?”

He paused in mid-step. I had his attention.

“I loved Danaë more than a cowboy loves his horse, more than a teenager his motorcycle….”

“Comparing her to a horse!” he said haughtily. “You disparage the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen, dead or alive.”

“Much more than the finest horse. Danaë was an android, created by Setsuo Kawabata, the artificial intelligence expert in Osaka.”

His eyebrows rose in circumflex accents.

“The 21st century offers exciting times,” I continued. “Revolutionary advances in software, processing speeds, nano technology. In Japan, there’s Sony’s robotic dog, Aibo, and Honda’s stair-climbing android. Carnegie Mellon University invented Grace, who registered herself for an academic conference. Flexible polymers are indistinguishable from skin. Most important, AI makes feedback loops possible so love can be reciprocated. I loved Danaë and she loved me.”

“Your robot prostitute? You obscene Shylock!” he hissed.

“Then to paraphrase Shakespeare, ‘Hath not an android hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions, hurt with the same weapons as a human? If you prick them, do they not bleed? If you tickle them, do they not laugh? If you shoot them, do they not die?’ But where’s the law against destroying a machine?”

The Inspector would not sleep well tonight. He would sleep even less well if he knew that I was Kawabata’s masterpiece. Danaë was his first iteration, I his second. Humans would probably call our love incest, but there’s no comparable feeling among androids.


- - -
Walt’s fiction has appeared recently in Bewildering Stories, Everyday Weirdness, The World of Myth and a dozen other publications. He’s also bounced from Fortune 500 firms to university posts, and from homes in eight states and a couple of Asian countries. He now lives in New Jersey where he moderates a writing group and co-edits a community publication.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

11/22/18

I Hold With Those Who Favor Fire
By Janet Shell Anderson


The tide’s ebbing on the Potomac, but you can’t see it. I’m walking with my uncle, Kiki’s father, Lanny Goldman, under the stunted cherry trees of late August as the Tidal Basin turns stark red in sunset.

Looking at the scarlet light, my Uncle Lanny says, “Some say the world will end in fire.” He talks like that sometimes.

He was a stockbroker, like his father. Now he’s old, almost sixty, but a good looking man, a dark-eyed version of long-ago movie star, Paul Newman. But dark as a foreigner. And strange.

Everybody in town’s worried there’s a coup coming. Tanks hover by Memorial Bridge. Oddly innocent pairs of soldiers circle under the trees. I keep coming here. Meeting people like my uncle. I shouldn’t. My family’s a political disaster. Lanny’s daughter, Kiki, was with the Administration and then she wasn’t and then she threatened them and then she disappeared. Two weeks ago. Lanny always said he was a stockbroker, lived in downtown Baltimore, old family, richer by far than my other relatives. We were the disgraces, my Dad, my brothers, into failed businesses, things like that. Political rabblerousers. I’m seventeen, so I really don’t know too much about it.

My father said, “Watch out for Lanny. You don’t really know what he is.” My father went bankrupt. Disappeared. What did he know?

Lanny’s had three wives, two dead, one he divorced. He’s mixed up with a party named Rita Corona, who lives with him in his condo. She’s sarcastic, pistol hot, looks like she’s weighed and calculated his worth to the penny. If anybody comes out of all this ok, it’ll be Rita. Now he’s bought a huge house for her in Mount Washington, an old part of Baltimore, and wants me to go there to be safe. Right.

It was a family house.

I went there as a child.

It’s a huge white mansion set among enormous sycamore trees and surrounded by white roses, white hydrangeas, white chrysanthemums. I dream about that house sometimes, and it’s filled with my missing family, my father, Kiki, my mother who died so long ago, my grandmother, my brothers. I’ll never go there. I remember a mirror that showed dust and a long corridor and golden light. And my face about a hundred years old.

Lanny says time has turned around. Time is turning around. He’s going to see the girl he went out with in college, Marsha Harper, and she’s younger now than I am.

We’re all going to see her. We get in a cab under the stunted trees of the Tidal Basin and go to 1600.
She lives in the White House.

She’s married to the Chief Executive. I’ve seen her on the news, and she looks as young as a pouty new Jezebel, a teen-queen Salome. Lanny says she’s Judith to Holofernes, whoever they were.

My father said Lanny was CIA, said never to trust Lanny, said the house in Mount Washington did not really exist.
Rita Corona’s snaking across the lawn, her painted face upturned in the sunset, her wide lips smiling, and the shadows are purple.

“I loved her,” Lanny says as if he has just discovered it. The grass is turning red, and the west side of the gnarled trunks of the trees in the Rose Garden are limed red, and the vast pillow box hedges are lighted with sunset fire, and he is not talking about Rita Corona. He’s remembering Marsha Harper, who is now young again and living in her own White House with the Chief Executive.

The hands on my watch run backwards. The tide is ebbing on the Potomac. The sky is iconic. Everyone fears a coup. Marsha Harper lives in the White House now, getting younger and younger. The sunset is very prolonged. The red humid air pushes against us like a tide.

“What is going to happen, has happened, and what has happened is what will be,” Lanny says. A fortune cookie, but good looking for a dark, old man.

The roses in the Rose Garden are almost spent. Not one is white.


- - -
I write flash fiction, am an attorney. I've been published by Farther Stars Than These, 365 Tomorrows, Daily Science Fiction, Vestal Review, decomP, Grey Sparrow, FRIGG and many others. My work has been included with Joyce Carol Oates in an anthology "Choose Wisely."

Thursday, November 15, 2018

11/15/18

Borrowed Tools
By Bruce Mundhenke


Our Sun will swallow our silver,
Our Sun will swallow our gold,
Our Sun will swallow all that we have,
All we have bought and sold,
All those things that we thought
Were our own,
Tools scattered throughout the heavens,
For future use unknown.


- - -
Bruce Mundhenke writes in Illinois, where he lives with his wife and their dog and cat.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

11/8/18

FROM ZERO, FROM ZERO, FROM ZERO EVERY TIME
By ANDREW DARLINGTON


Ransom is out there. He has a gun. He’s dangerous.

Logically, this is story’s end. Paradoxically, it’s the start of another.

Today, whatever day it is, there’s an exceptionally calm yellow sky, it’s clearly springtime, evening and silent. Shelly takes a few deep belly breaths, a couple of rapid knee-bends, and cracks her knuckles. Right. Ready. Mask with filters. Although, surely it’s too late for that. The spores are already there. She shrugs. Stepping outside, the city looks empty, but changed. Mould-slime underfoot, tall spiky moss and dense fungus. A plague of giant snails on slick glistening trails. Ta-clunk, Ta-clunk, Ta-clunk her boot-heels say to the plaza. Stepping over yet another corpse, barely recognisable, exploding outwards, ingrown and overgrown with an oozing gunk germinating into more varieties of moss. Yet Ransom is out there somewhere too, scheming his schemes, planning his plans.

If Ransom, why not others? ‘I mean, I’m no great shakes as a thinker’ she’d told Campbell, ‘but we can’t be the last. It’s totally irrational to think that way. Statistically, there must be remote untouched communities out there. Islands. Mountain villages. Where things will survive and continue.’

‘The spores are in the air. You can’t escape the air, no matter how remote your island or how high your mountain village. Billionaires may hide out in sealed subterranean bunkers, until it’s safe to emerge. But will it ever be safe…? Their children and grandchildren will be born and die underground, and the spores will still be here. The biosphere is irreversibly shifting. Nothing is the same.’ His breath rasps audibly in his chest.

Checking the entry-wound in Campbell’s side, there’s mould encrustation around its ruptured rim. She sponges it away carefully. He winces, but grins reassuringly.

Gizmos strut like three-legged chickens across the floor, pecking and twitching, meeting each other, sensing each other with sensors, then moving jerkily in precise circles around each other warily. Comical. Self-replicating, but only as and when necessary. Tay-Tay and Ri-Ri. We never had children. It just didn’t happen that way, despite all our trying. So they are our children now.

We are uploading and editing internet libraries full of information to the databanks beyond orbital decay limits. There forever. All human wisdom – HaHa, it’s there, for passing alien starships, or future terrestrial evolutions to discover. With these small mobile Gizmo back-up units, just in case.

‘Our last Will and Testicle’ jokes Campbell. ‘Remember how, in HG Wells ‘First Men In The Moon’, Cavor is brought before the Grand Lunar, to whom he divulges all human history. In the scrupulous interests of accuracy he truth-tells, the wars, atrocities, genocides, massacres, pogroms. Only to scare the absolute hell out of the Selenites so they want nothing more to do with us. Maybe we should do a presentational clean-up job on our legacy? Too late now, I guess.’

The endless frustrating dialogue continues in her head, it’s a struggle to turn off the leaky tap and keep those nagging thoughts from drip-drip-dripping.

In the teeth-grinding monotony, it amused them to self-scan, add their own electronic brain-patterns, memories and uniqueness to the whole. She works onscreen merging their two faces into a composite, retouching here… and here. Then transferring the image onto Tay-Tay and Ri-Ri’s face-screens. Yes, that looks good.

Movement to left. Ransom? She swings her bolt-action repeater ready. A huge hazy machine, like a ‘Star Wars’ walker is there between the multi-story and the supermart, then it’s translucent, then it’s gone. Madness and hallucinations are advance warnings of infection. She knows that. It’s what unhinged Ransom. But it can’t happen yet, it can’t. There’s more to do. It all began with prehistoric spores released by melting glaciers. We inhale them. They’re in our respiratory system. Crawling through the bloodstream. At first they erupt like ugly warts through the skin. Which grow, and grow. In the last hours of the now-extinct functioning-world there’d been theories about fossil evidence of earlier spore-plagues, but that’s all gone now. Everything’s gone. She kicks her way into the store. There’s sludge gumming up the floor. The air is hazy with drifting particles, the aisles dense with foul-stinking weed florets and sphagnum. Dull lichen-wheels are intersecting targets across the cabinet units in the sweaty fecund mulch warmth.

There are still cans inside. Is it safe to eat? Does it matter? The difference is die quick or die slow. Glancing warily to left and right she stuffs her satchel. There had been three of them. Ransom becoming increasingly twitchy and paranoid as they work the project between them, taking rota shifts. Until he slumps into deep coma-like depression. It’s all futile. Best to exert control now. Take the merciful euthanasia option while we still can. No future. No future at all. When Campbell argues back, Ransom gets violent. He uses the pump-action shotgun, wounding Campbell, before escaping into the city. He’s out there now. He has a gun. He’s dangerous.

Emerging back onto the plaza there are two huge machines that she catches from the corner of her eye. Their sensors swivel towards her, inquisitively questing, their attention searching her out, focusing on her. But when she turns, they’re gone. Leaving fluctuating after-images. Just the mustard-yellow spore-hazy sky, swirling in psychedelic patterns. And the coiled shells of giant snails. Hell, it’s their planet now. They’re welcome to it. Her attention drifts dangerously. Campbell had talked about time travel. If you could time travel, when would you go? You’d check out the significant moments of history. You’d be there for vital events that shape your time.

Ta-clunk, Ta-clunk, Ta-clunk her boot-heels say as she re-crosses the plaza.

Heartbeats stumble in her chest. The walls of her throat close in. Campbell is there. The sound of his raspy breathing fills the chamber. Tay-Tay and Ri-Ri are lying on their sides, inactive. He’d talked about downloading the full personality files into their AI matrix. He must have done that, and overloaded them. Stunned them. Campbell is lying still on the couch. He hasn’t turned around. She slumps the satchel down on the floor and takes two paces towards him. Suddenly scared. Something is not right.

When she touches him, he collapses forward. His skin is cold. He’s no longer breathing. Yet there’s harsh raspy breathing. It goes on.

NO! A hammerblow of terror. She makes a grab for the shotgun. Ransom is there in a loom of dark shadows. His skin stippled with a blistering rash of warts, some of them already erupting mossy tendrils of plant-growth. His eyes are black voids.

The explosions are deafening. The pain rips her apart. Nothing. Nothing. Nothingness.

After a long cold silence Tay-Tay and Ri-Ri twitch. Struggle to their feet, look around them in strange wonderment.

The ghostly future-machines close in around them, watching the first moments of their culture.


Logically, this is story’s end. Paradoxically, it’s also the start of another.


- - -
Andrew Darlington's current book is 'TWEAK VISION: THE WORD-PLAY SOLUTION TO MODERN-ANGST CONFUSION'
What is Tweak Vision? Snatch visions from the starry dynamo of the cosmos. Words are supernatural. In times of gathering modern-angst confusion, words defy temporal gravity, rearrange space-time, choreograph new constellations. Word-play is all I have to take your heart away. Now tweak them this way and that, shake them out into new configurations to your device of choice. This is Tweak Vision!
www.amazon.co.uk/Tweak-Vision-Word-Play-Modern-Angst-Confusion/dp/1986415260/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1522494861&sr=8-1&keywords=Tweak+Vision

Thursday, November 1, 2018

11/1/18

CONSTELLATIONS
By John Grey

- -
Constellations in the night sky,
connected only by how we see the distance.
suns as random as our thoughts
but forming lions and water bearers –


like disparate people through the years,
no association between themselves
until I map them in my earthbound sphere


join a sparkling seven year old girl in pigtails
to the burning gases of a mother
pinning shirts and trousers to a clothes line
and a teenage comet
alighting occasionally on my lips
and a woman in nova white dress and train
fighting inner tremble down an aisle -
I chart pectus pectorus - a heart -


I link works of art to books read.
Bach to the Rolling Stones,
a train ride through Connecticut
to the Angel falls -
my life's all ars minor,
eo ire itum.
musica major -


then it's back to the night sky,
the twinkling latitudes.
the howl, the head, the gleaming Y shape -
or is that Michelle or Vancouver
or the last note of the Eroica -


I’m some of what we all are -
some exclusively inside myself.


- - -
John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Examined Life Journal, Evening Street Review and Columbia Review with work upcoming in Leading Edge, Poetry East and Midwest Quarterly.


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